Free Birds

Movie Information

The Story: Time-traveling turkeys go back to pilgrim times to prevent turkey from becoming the standard Thanksgiving fare. The Lowdown: It isn't clever. It isn't funny. It isn't very well made. It seems a lot longer than 90 minutes.
Genre: Animated Anthropomorphic Turkey Sci-Fi
Director: Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!)
Starring: (Voices) Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, George Takei, Amy Poehler, Keith David
Rated: PG

It’s a movie about turkeys traveling back in time to stop turkey from being the traditional Thanksgiving meal. What really is there to be said about such a thing? Well, since I’m expected to say something, I’ll have a bash, but this is going to be of the short-and-sour variety. Jimmy Hayward’s Free Birds is not only about turkeys, it manages to be one, and long before it’s over, you may well be ready to carve it. You might recall Hayward made the OK Horton Hears a Who! back in 2008 and was rewarded with the live-action debacle Jonah Hex (2010). That at least offered a certain amount of unintended mirth. Free Birds intends mirth and fails to raise much.

The whole idea is that Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) is smarter (this is a relative term) than the average turkey. He realizes that he and his free-range flock are slated for luncheon. So Reggie’s very happy when the seemingly narcoleptic daughter (lotsa laughs there) of the ersatz Bill Clinton president insists he be the annual pardoned turkey. According to the film, this means a life of leisure at Camp David with cable TV and the ability to endlessly order pizza from Chuck E. Cheese. (How this works, I don’t know, since none of the other humans can understand turkey-speak.) Enter Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), who is not smarter than most turkeys, but is determined to drag Reggie off on a mission to take a top-secret time machine back to the first Thanksgiving to stop the pilgrims from setting that unfortunate poultry precedent. (Never mind that the tradition started much, much later.)

That’s it. It’s not very involving. Plus, the animation is lackluster and the 3-D all but non-existent. Yes, George Takei — providing the voice of the time machine — will say, “Oh, my,” but you have to wade through the whole film to get to it. No, the Lynyrd Skynyrd song does not appear, but there is a fairly pointless cover (by Social Distortion) of Credence Clearwater’s “Up Around the Bend.” In some quarters, the film is being viewed as PETA propaganda. In others, it’s supposedly a distasteful diminishing of Native American concerns. Frankly, I don’t think the movie’s smart enough to have an agenda. Sometimes a dumb, talking-turkey movie is just this week’s kiddie-flick cash grab. How you’ll explain to your tykes why you’ve stuffed and roasted Reggie in a few weeks is your concern. Rated PG for some action/peril and rude humor.

Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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2 thoughts on “Free Birds

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    So Reggie’s very happy when the seemingly narcoleptic daughter (lotsa laughs there) of the ersatz Bill Clinton president insists he be the annual pardoned turkey.

    I’m assuming there isn’t a scene where an animated Allison Janney tries to sneak a second turkey into the pardoning process to save him from the slaughter?

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